Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Investigation stopped
at a crossing

As an intrepid investigative reporter, there were many stories that promised ready danger and extreme personal risk, stories I would unflinchingly avoid at all costs. With nerves of tofu and a spine to match, I'd shine the unblinking light of investigative journalism at the dark underbelly of corporate corruption and organized crime and gamely run in the other direction.

Despite my "personal safety first" method of investigative journalism, I inadvertently stumbled into the occasional important story like the time I exposed a dangerous Colombian drug trafficking ring while researching a scathing expose on overdue library books.

After many, many death threats, usually by editors, I withdrew from investigative reporting and began to pioneer a new form of journalism which has become widely known as "investigative humorism." As an investigative humorist, I fearlessly dig up controversial stuff and then make fun of it. But I do make occasional forays into the realm of public service, as long as the risk of severe injury is slight and chance of gunplay negligible.

IT WAS WITH that in mind that I recently decided to become a school crossing guard. There is a shortage of school crossing guards, those stalwart defenders of our young at intersections across the city. I decided to throw caution to the wind, don an orange vest, arm myself with a stop sign and wade into the traffic to show the need for protection of the island's larvae as they commute to and from school.

After tangling with Colombian drug dealers and library book scofflaws, how difficult could it be to infiltrate the world of crossing guards?

Impossible, as it turns out.

I thought that I could get a little orientation talk from the police sergeant in charge of training crossing guards, then go out and assist the little toddlers crossing the streets for a few days and report back to readers. That would lead to many people coming forward to become crossing guards, therefore solving a large public safety problem and winning me the Pulitzer Prize I was unjustly denied for my groundbreaking library book expose.

A Police Department spokesman applauded my public spirit but pointed out that if one of the kiddies were to be struck by a car while I was on duty and the parents found out the crosswalk was guarded by a humor columnist, well, that would be a fine legal mess.

Undeterred, I volunteered to take the actual certification class and become a "for real" crossing guard, but the spokesman said that with the Police Department having to do a background check on me and all, it was just a lot of trouble to go through for a newspaper column.

I told her I was fairly certain I could pass the background check (that "minor in possession of Budweiser" rap from 1972 likely is no longer on the books) and would be willing to actually fill in as a crossing guard when needed once I was certified.

But the Police Department was adamant that I could not become a crossing guard. Frankly, it was a career blow I'm not sure I'll be able to recover from. It's sad to think that a muckraking journalist who once laughed behind the backs of organized crime figures and stared dishonest 123-pound accountants in the face would be denied a chance to become a school crossing guard.

I'm not bitter, just disappointed. And I urge those of you with time on your hands and little fear of intersections to volunteer to become crossing guards. They are needed. Call HPD for info.

For an investigative humorist, there are other fish to sauté. I'm currently in secret negotiations to go undercover as a fish sautéer or to enter the dangerous world of a gas station attendant. Stay tuned.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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